FG Amends Charges Against Justice Ngwuta

THE federal government on Thursday amended the 16-count charge it filed against a Supreme Court judge, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, who is facing alleged corruption charges at the Abuja division of the Federal High Court.

The government, which reduced the charges from 16 to 11, however, did not give any reason for the amendment.

But its counsel, led by Olufemi Fatunde, at the resumed hearing, informed the court that she wished to tender some exhibits as well as amend some charges filed against the defendant.

After the charges were read to the defendant, he entered a not-guilty plea and the court asked the prosecution to call its witness for trial to commence.

A witness, Linus Nwaba Chukwuebuka, in his testimony, gave account of how he removed three bags containing the sum of N27 million from the defendants” house in Abakiliki, adding that he could identify the bags on sight.

Chukwuebuka further stated that he spent N23 million out of the N27 million he took from the house of the defendant which was used on a construction project on his directives, while the remaining money was taken by the officers of Department of State Services (DSS), when he was invited to their office for questioning.

The court however, admitted three statements made by the witness in the office of the DSS as exhibit 4a, 4b and 4c respectively, as the court stood for some minutes awaiting the arrival of the next witness.

On resumption, Ahmed Gambo Saleh, the second prosecution witness and a Chief Registrar in the Supreme Court who oversees the finances of the Supreme Court told the court he knew the defendant in 2011 and pointed out that aside his monthly salaries of N751,047, he also collects N710,000 as allowances excluding the £10,000 for yearly medics and an additional $1,300 per night on voyage for estacode.

When asked of the total remuneration, the witness said between June/July 2011 that the defendant resumed office, up till September 2016, the defendant had collected a little over N103 million as allowances and salaries in the course of his duties as a Supreme Court judge.

According to the witness, the defendant has travelled five times for medical check-up amounting to £50,000 on medical check-ups only, and was also paid a little above N8 million for air ticket during the period of his service with N196,000 on total estacodes.

However, under cross examination by the defence counsel led by Kanu Agabi (SAN), the witness stated that he did not receive any report of the defendant engaged in a business other than that of the court, neither has he received any report challenging his competence as a Justice of the Supreme Court.

He affirmed that the appointed justices of the Supreme Court are about 60 years old of age and they are appointed based on merit bordering on their successful carriers.

When questioned on the issue of justices owning properties, the witness also said there are no rules governing or restricting justices from owning properties, and the defendant in question has not been suspended for any misconduct.

The trial was adjourned till Friday for the prosecution to call its next witness.

Former Enugu CJ arraigned for false declaration of assets
Meanwhile, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Thursday arraigned the former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice Innocent Azubike Umezulike, on a four-count charge of non-disclosure of asset and false declaration of assets before Justice J. K. Omotosho of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

The defendant pleaded not guilty to the charge when they were read to him.

The counsel to the defendant, Professor Uche-Jack Osimiri, told the court that he had filed an application for bail for his client. The prosecution counsel did not oppose the application but prayed the court to order for an accelerated hearing.

Justice Omotosho granted bail to the defendant on self-recognition, the sum of N2 million and ordered him to deposit his international passport with the court.

The case was adjourned to April 24 for continuation of trial.

However, before the matter was adjourned, Justice Omotosho ordered the prosecution counsel to produce his witness. Usman Adoke, an operative of the EFCC, was then called to the witness box and examined by the prosecution counsel, Kayode Oni.

Adoke told the court that sometime in April 2016, the commission received a petition where it was alleged that the defendant while serving as Chief Judge of Enugu State corruptly enriched himself and abused his office among other allegations.

He said when the defendant was invited to the Commission to make a statement, he failed to disclose that Plot 312 Independence Layout Enugu and Plot 767 Independence Layout Enugu belong to him.